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Should your business try trendjacking?

A card that says bold and big, another that says that's hot and trendy, and another that says trendy.

The Minions campaign marketing strategies were so successful that the yellow creatures and their fans seemed to spread across social media channels like—well, hordes of minions. One of the strategies the campaign used was trendjacking. By making memes, creating GIFs that commented on trending events and pairing movie clips with viral TikTok sounds, the marketers helped Despicable Me become one of the best-performing movies of 2022. In this article, we’ll define trendjacking, discuss its benefits and offer some tips for how to use the strategy.

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What is trendjacking?

Trendjacking is a social media marketing strategy in which a brand uses trending topics, events or memes to connect with their audience. “The number one goal of marketing is attention,” explained Daniel Murray, creator of The Marketing Millennials, a podcast and newsletter that caters to marketing professionals. “Trendjacking is a way to get attention by inserting your brand into everyday conversations.”

What are the benefits of trendjacking?

While trendjacking holds so much opportunity for businesses, a few of the main benefits include:

Attracts followers

To gain success on social media, you must attract your target audience and make them want to follow you. Trendjacking shows people that they’ll get engaging content from your brand beyond ads and promotions.

Murray says that increasing your follower count can lead to increased business. “Do the math: Only 2% of my audience converts,” said Murray. “If I have 10,000 followers, 2% is 200 conversions. If I have 20,000 followers, 2% is 400 conversions.”

Encourages engagement

Trendjacking encourages social media engagement because it requires your brand to participate in an already active conversation. Plus, people like to share things that make them laugh. “If you go look at the most shared things on Instagram, it’s memes,” said Murray. “People share them all the time.”

Appeals to Gen Z

Market research shows that 85% of Generation Z learns about new products on social media. Trendjacking can be an effective Gen Z branding tool because it taps into the generation’s interest in humor, authenticity and creativity.

A trendjacking example from the Minions Instagram of a meme that says, "Yeah, I'm a Kevin... K - krafty E- empowering V - very long I - interested in a leadership role n - not all bad."

Saves money

Trendjacking can be one of the most affordable types of marketing because you just have to capitalize on concentrated attention—you don’t have to build it yourself. It doesn’t require any additional promotion costs and you can develop a post in less than a day. So, if you’re strapped for cash, you can use trendjacking to drum up interest without blowing your budget.

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What are the drawbacks of trendjacking?

Although trendjacking can be a cost-effective way to boost your following and amplify your brand, it comes with risks. You could turn off segments of your audience or ultimately miss the mark, impacting your brand reputation. Trendjacking isn’t right for every business, either. The strategy might not fit a business with an older clientele, has a more buttoned-up brand or deals with sensitive subject matter.

How to decide if and when trendjacking works for your brand

Whether your business can gain from trendjacking depends on if it fits your social media branding. Your company’s social media skills and bandwidth also factors in. “If you think that this is one way to get attention for cheap because you have a low budget, you could put this as one of the things you focus on,” said Murray. “But if trendjacking is just a side thing you’re trying out, then it might not be super successful.”

How to make trendjacking work for your business

Like most social media trends, trendjacking can be simple if you know how to do it right. Use these trendjacking tips to grow your strategy:

A trendjacking example from the Minions Instagram of a GIF of minions holding onto the wing of a plane with the text, "When you can't afford that upgrade."

01. Use audience research tools to stay in the know

Murray recommends using trend-tracking tools such as Google Trends and social-listening tools such as SparkToro to keep up with the conversation. Set up Google Alerts on relevant topics and notifications on relevant accounts so that you can pounce on trendjacking opportunities as soon as they arise.

02. Research the trend

If your post doesn’t hit the mark because you either didn’t fully understand the trend or didn’t have anything new to add to the conversation, you’ll come off as inauthentic. Even worse, you might accidentally participate in a meme that has political or harmful undertones. To avoid this, research the trend before you participate on sites like Know Your Meme.

03. Set brand guidelines

Because trends move quickly, speed is essential to trendjacking. You don’t have the same amount of time to plan, design and deliberate on a post. Setting brand guidelines allows your business to move quickly on trends and introduce content that aligns with your marketing objectives and identity. “You have to commit to having guardrails and not micromanaging,” said Murray. “That’s where brands won’t be successful with trendjacking. If you try to make it too buttoned-up, it won’t fit.”

04. Dedicate some time to scrolling

The best way to get good at trendjacking is simply to spend time on social media. Murray says that trends usually start on Twitter and Reddit, so spend time on those platforms to stay ahead of the curve. Follow meme accounts as well to keep your finger on the pulse.

05. Get to know your audience

Know your target market beyond demographics—you need to know what your customers care about, what interests them and how they communicate. “If you do a Friends meme, but none of your audience knows what Friends is, you’re not going to hit with the audience,” Murray explained. Build a customer profile that identifies what they watch, what they read, who they follow and how they spend their time. This profile can act as a blueprint to help you figure out what posts will appeal to them.

A trendjacking example from the Minions marketing that was an April Fools' joke pretending to sell NFTs from Apathetic Gru Banana Club.

06. Comment

If you’re new to trendjacking and don’t know if it’ll fit your brand, start by commenting on viral posts. “People forget that commenting is a way of creating content,” said Murray. “Commenting is a great way of testing content because if your comments get a lot of likes, then you can go and create [similar] content.”

07. Be human

The most effective brands approach social media with the same energy that an influencer would. The content managers behind Netflix, The Museum of English Rural Life, RyanAir and Duolingo know that they need to speak the language of social media to tap into the Internet’s power. “We’re in the age of people wanting to follow people,” said Murray. “People want to see behind the scenes. People want to know who works for your company. People want to know that you're human.”

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